Early in the first quarter, a false sense of security had already set in. Utah’s defense seemed well on its way to cruising against Idaho State’s experienced attack.
A catch here, a run there — well, things changed. A 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive dinged some of that confidence. And the secondary in particular had a lot to answer for.
While coach Kyle Whittingham said he was most upset about giving up big runs in unmanned gaps, but the Bengals’ Justin Arias picked the Utes apart for a time, completing 9 of his first 12 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.
It was part of what Nate Orchard called "a very average" night.
"We gave away a ton of big plays to the offense," he said. "In the end we came out victorious, but we will have to go back and look at the film and see what corrections we can make."
One of those looking hard at corrections will be Tevin Carter, who moved the ball 21 yards for Idaho State when he hit his man late on the Bengals’ first scoring drive. Also looking at the film intently will be Eric Rowe, who got flagged for pass interference on third and goal, giving ISU a fresh set of downs to work with.
Arias also picked on Davion Orphey, hitting a receiver for a 28-yard strike just beyond the senior cornerback’s reach. Wykie Freeman whiffed on a handful of tackles, helping open up ISU’s run game.
With Utah’s best cover corner, Reggie Porter, on the shelf for a year, it was a concerning early start for a secondary that already seems to lack depth. Adding to the strain was the absence of Justin Thomas, who Whittingham said will return next week for Fresno State.
The waters evened out for the Utes, who managed to hold Arias to 158 yards throwing and sacked him four times. It was in no small part thanks to converted receiver Dominique Hatfield, who stayed in wideouts’ hip pockets all night. Leading the team with two breakups, he could be on the road to a permanent switch.
"He did a good job tonight, I saw the slant he stopped, the deep post," Rowe said. "Going both sides, it’s good to see him out there making plays."
Someone back there has to.
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